I am embarrassed and don’t know what to say to her. She repeats her request. There seems no avoiding it. I get up and bend over her long face, feeling as I do so just as I did in my childhood when I was lifted up to kiss my grandmother in her coffin. Not content with the kiss, Mashenka leaps up and impulsively embraces me. At that instant, Mashenka’s maman appears in the doorway of the arbour. . . . She makes a face as though in alarm, and saying “sh-sh” to someone with her, vanishes like Mephistopheles through the trapdoor.
Confused and enraged, I return to our villa. At home I find Varenka’s maman embracing my maman with tears in her eyes. And my maman weeps and says:
“I always hoped for it!”
And then, if you please, Nadenka’s maman comes up to me, embraces me, and says:
“May God bless you! . . . Mind you love her well. . . . Remember the sacrifice she is making for your sake!”
And here I am at my wedding. At the moment I write these last words, my best man is at my side, urging me to make haste. These people have no idea of my character! I have a violent temper, I cannot always answer for myself! Hang it all! God knows what will come of it! To lead a violent, desperate man to the altar is as unwise as to thrust one’s hand into the cage of a ferocious tiger. We shall see, we shall see!
* * * * *
And so, I am married. Everybody congratulates me and Varenka keeps clinging to me and saying:
“Now you are mine, mine; do you understand that? Tell me that you love me!” And her nose swells as she says it.
I learn from my best man that the wounded officer has very cleverly escaped the snares of Hymen. He showed the variegated young lady a medical certificate that owing to the wound in his temple he was at times mentally deranged and incapable of contracting a valid marriage. An inspiration! I might have got a certificate too. An uncle of mine drank himself to death, another uncle was extremely absent-minded (on one occasion he put a lady’s muff on his head in mistake for his hat), an aunt of mine played a great deal on the piano, and used to put out her tongue at gentlemen she did not like. And my ungovernable temper is a very suspicious symptom.
But why do these great ideas always come too late? Why?
IN THE DARK
A FLY of medium size made its way into the nose of the assistant procurator, Gagin. It may have been impelled by curiosity, or have got there through frivolity or accident in the dark; anyway, the nose resented the presence of a foreign body and gave the signal for a sneeze. Gagin sneezed, sneezed impressively and so shrilly and loudly that the bed shook and the springs creaked. Gagin’s wife, Marya Mihalovna, a full, plump, fair woman, started, too, and woke up. She gazed into the darkness, sighed, and turned over on the other side. Five minutes afterwards she turned over again and shut her eyes more firmly but she could not get to sleep again. After sighing and tossing from side to side for a time, she got up, crept over her husband, and putting on her slippers, went to the window.